Skip to main content
Behind the controversies over the relative merits of urbanization and its attendant rural-urban migration is the question of short- versus long-term effects. Many critics of the current pace of urbanization undoubtedly have near-term consequences in mind. In addition to the difficulties of providing employment, the fantastic growth of many large cities in developing countries has strained the meager resources available for providing basic municipal services, much less adequate housing. Is it not reasonable, therefore, to advocate policies that would reduce the volume of rural-urban migration, which, in turn, would slow down the growth of cities, particularly the large ones?
There are several limitations to this approach. First of all, we have very little reason to believe that governments have the necessary administrative tools to manipulate migration rates—even totalitarian governments have not had much success. Moreover, the long-run consequences of retaining people in rural environments are unfortunate. Policies restricting migration may have near-term ameliorative effects, but in time they will become negative. The numerous changes required to bring about the transition to a "developed" status are best made in an urban environment.
I realize the enormous challenge implicit in my "acceptance" of current rates of urbanization in developing countries. I have tried to show, however, that the implications of migrant selectivity, as related to the growth of large cities, makes the prognosis for successful transition to a modern urbanized society more favorable than is sometimes concluded.
1. Schultz, T. W., "Investment in Human Capital," Amer Econ R, 51,
1961. pp. 1-17.
2. Sjaastad, Larry A., "The Costs and Returns of Human Migration," Invest-
ment in Human Beings, supplement to the J Pol Econ, 70, 1962. Part 2.
3. Lerner, Daniel, "Comparative Analysis of Processes of Modernization,"
The City in Modern Africa, Horace Miner, ed. New York: Praeger, 1967. pp. 21-38.
4. Vaughan, Denton R., Urbanization in Twentieth Century Latin America:
A Working Bibliography. Austin: Institute of Latin American Studies and the Population Research Center, University of Texas, 1969.
5. Browning, Harley L., Urbanization in Mexico. Unpublished Ph.D. disser-
tation, Univ. of Calif. Berkeley, Calif., 1962.
6. Davis, Kingsley, World Urbanization 1950-1970. Volume I: Basic Data
for Cities, Countries and Regions. Population Monograph Series No. 4, Berkeley: Institute of International Studies. 1969.
7. Centre Latinoamerica de Demografia (CELADE) Encuesta sobre Inmigra-
cibn en el Gran Santiago. E/CN. CELADE/A. 15/C. 64/2. Santiago, Chile, 1964.
8. Elizaga, Juan C., "A Study of Migration to Greater Santiago (Chile),"
Demography. Vol. 3, No. 2, 1966. pp. 352-377.nd, importantly, educational facilities are much better. Although the migrant himself may not benefit from them, his children can.ocieties.iterature. A number of social scientists have seen the migration process through a glass all-too-darkly. I have tried to explain the group who must make the (rreatest adjustment in stvlp. of livino nnH tVip.rpfnrp nrp nrp«nmali1\/ m^et inhe predominantly male rural-urban migration, in the multilingual character of the society, in the existence of polygamy, and